Shapely Women has moved!

NOTE: This blog is no updated regularly on blogger, although the archives back to 2008 will stay up on this site. Shapely Women has been moved to I encourage you to join the much more interactive art-curation community there!

Mary Leakey's 100th Birthday

Mary Leakey's 100th Birthday
Google 'doodles', 2013

I love how Leakey and her dogs have been drawn. A google 'doodle' in celebration of British anthropology. And find more doodles here!

Tveice Rīgā I (Swelter in Riga I)

Tveice Rīgā I (Swelter in Riga I)
Patrīcija Brekte, 2010

Another striking image out of Latvia -- women with beers patiently waiting out the summer heat in the country's capital city.

Ar vainadziņu (The Wreath)

Ar vainadziņu (The Wreath)
Inta Dobraja, 1992/2001


Karlis Dobrajs, 1982

One of Karlis' earlier paintings has nice form and setting, with the face curiously in the shadows.

Ieva (Eve)

Ieva (Eve)
Karlis Dobrajs, 1993

Interestingly, Inta's painter husband also does a lot of female portraits and nudes, but I'm not at all persuaded by any of them -- ethereal floating creatures in glowing light. This portrait of one of his best, probably because of the way he's done the texture of her hair!


Inta Dobraja, 1992

Another lovely from Latvian artist Inta Dobraja.

Šuvējas (Seamstresses)

Šuvējas (Seamstresses)
1989, Inta Dobraja

Another painting from Latvian artist Inta Dobraja. I guess this is how you make clothes when you don't have clothes? Whimsical and well-lit.


1988, Inta Dobraja

Info from; it seems Latvians Inta and Karlis Dobrajis have a whole series of beautiful paintings, and have been developing their art as a couple for years. I'll feature these for the next few days.

J'adore les serpents (Myrtille Henrion Picco)

J'adore les serpents 
Myrtille Henrion Picco, 1989

Eye-catching hair; more from this artist's blog here.

une beauté orientale

une beauté orientale (a beatiful oriental) 
Henriette Brown, 1861

Figuration Feminine provides me with another beautiful portrait by Henriette Browne, this one of a woman in Ottoman garb.

Nuns in the cloister work room

Nonnen im klösterlichen Arbeitsraum
(Nuns in the cloister work room)
Henriette Browne, 19th century

The placement of the four nuns gives us a great sense of depth, and the washbasin on the right helps to anchor the painting. Dim rooms remind us that it could be rather dark inside without electricity, and the large (starched?) hats jump out as rather period-specific.

Naturally, it's painted by a woman. Henriette Browne seems to be the pseudonym of traveller and French diplomat's wife Sophie de Bouteiller.

Die Pfahlbauerin (the lake dweller)

Die Pfahlbauerin (the lake dweller)
Albert Anker, 1873

A woman holding a baby looks out across an expanse of water, where we seem to see a boat or other dark objects in the distance. The wooden plats she sits on, barefoot, highlight the rustic nature of the scene.

Combing (Toulouse-Lautrec)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1891

The light colors of an early morning, or late evening, and arms that pull at the edges of a loose nightgown as a woman combs and twists her hair into a braid. Quick strokes of pastels (?) contribute to the impression of a brief moment in time. 

A Box at the Theatre La Grande Loge

A Box at the Theatre La Grande Loge (étude)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1896

It's funny how knowing the rest of a painter's repertoire can make you evaluate a given painting in a different light. I'm familiar with Toulouse-Lautrec's portraits of rowdy Parisian life and prostitutes, and it makes me wonder what he imagines between these two staid theater-goers. Why the dark red furnishings and pale white of their faces? Who's the frowning man one box over? Who will come to fill the other seats in this box - their husbands, more lady friends, or some other men? Questions, questions...

Utamaro's Mother-and-Child

Utamaro, 1797 

More Kitagawa Utamaro, who seems to be one of the most prolific court portrait painters of 18th century Japan. The mirror reflects the boy's shaved head and long tail of hair, an interesting choice that draws attention awya from the otherwise obvious highlight: the breasts.

Abenaki couple

Abenaki couple
18th century USA

This undated watercolor from Montreal shows a husband and wife of the Abenaki people, who lived in a region of America called Wabanaki ("Dawn Land"), but now known as New England and Quebec. I'm cuious if the couple were really so matchy-matchy, or if the coloring was an artistic choice on the part of the painter.

Midwives Bathing the New-born Christ

Midwives Bathing the New-born Christ 
Daphni Monastery in Greece, c. 1100 CE

Lovely mosaic, and the artist did a nice job keeping the water flowing and translucent. Is Jesus shown with someone else besides his mother? Unusual!

Portrait de la Femme

Portrait de la Femme 
de Joseph-Désiré Court, 18th century

Pensive but playful. Is that a cliche? The dark background and draping of the shawl emphasize her the light oval in the middle, and her loosely tied hair mimics the loose folds of the shawl. Eye-catching composition.

Portrait of the Artist's Wife

Portrait of the Artist's Wife
Egon Schiele, 1917

I love this, first because she looks like Raggedy Ann all grown up, and second because of the missing patterns on her skirt, and arched shoulders. Her fingers are red at the tips and wovvelly, and her whole appearance is sweet and haphazhard. From One Year One Painting. Your thoughts?

French ambassador's wife in Oriental Costume.

Annette Comtesse de Vergennes, in Oriental Costume.
Antoine de Favray, 18th century

Wikipedia recomends this lovely portrait of a French ambassador's wife, again in Oriental costume. The first thing that catches my attention is her creamy skin and pearl jewelry, but I soon notice the round waist... and then the foreshortened leg and slipper peeking from under her dress! An ambiguous portrait and the composure implies disarray, but beautiful nonetheless.

Turkish Women

Turkish Women
Antoine de Favray, 1754
From One Year One Painting a Day.

A minor french painter noted for his portraits of the Ottoman Empire. I have a hard time believing that these are actual Turkish women; I find it more likely that he's found French women who want to indulge in Oriental fantasies. Again notice the delicate pointed fingers plaiting the central woman's hair, and the strait noses they all share.

Portrait: Bianca Cappello de Medici

Bianca Cappello de Medici
Lavinia Fontana, 16th century Italy
From One Year One Painting a Day

One wonders how long she had to stand for this portrait. The boy apparently wouldn't stay put for long, because his face is rather more sketched. I also find it interesting that 16th century hands are always delicate and arching, regardless of body structure. The wiki entry linked above has a slimmer portrait from Bianca's youth, which offers an interesting contrast.

Gravin de Pagès as St. Catherine

Gravin de Pagès, née de Cornellan, as St. Catherine 
Joseph-Désiré Court, 1850
Found at

For me, this one's curious because it's a married woman posing as the 14th-century St. Catherine. Why? Did she choose this or did someone suggest this? Did she particularly admire St. Catherine? Was this her saint name? A serious, studious portrait, but very well laid-out.  

Amelia Opie

Amelia Opie
by John Opie, 1798

Maternité (Sabbagh)

Georges Hanna Sabbagh, 1919

Christ and The Woman of Samaria

from Christ and The Woman of Samaria
Guercino, c.1620

The Reader

The Reader
Édouard Vuillard, 19th century

In the Sun (1953)

In the Sun
Alexander Nikolayevich Samokhvalov, 1953

The Wet Nurse

The Wet Nurse
Willem Bartel van der Kooi, 19th century

Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Judith with the Head of Holofernes

The Love Letter

The Love Letter
Thomas Sully, 19th century

Head of A Young Girl (Quentin)

Head of A Young Girl 
Maurice Quentin, 18th century

Penitent Magdalene

The Penitent Magdalene 
Giovanni Maria Viani, 17th century